Emergency measures in the wake of Covid-19:
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern closed the borders to all non-citizen or non-permanent residents of New Zealand on March 19th. The country essentially shut down on March 23rd, with non-essential businesses closed, domestic travel restrictions in place, and only supermarkets, pharmacies and essential medical services still open.
As of May 8th mass gatherings are still banned, schools and shopping centers are closed, and socializing is restricted to close relatives, however, non-essential businesses will be allowed to open with no face-to-face contacts. Additional relaxation measures may be taken in mid-May.
New Zealand is particularly suited to nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Sailing, swimming and surfing are popular on the smaller North Island, where you’ll find the capital city of Wellington.
Wellington’s geographical position was the major deciding factor in the transfer of the seat of government from Auckland in 1865. But Wellington isn’t just the political capital — it’s the cultural capital as well. It has a sophisticated and stylish population that rivals that of any major city. It’s also known for its outlandish art galleries and its outstanding restaurants.
The gay community is part of the social fabric here, and people's views on sexual orientation and gender diversity owe a lot to traditional Maori norms. With growing interest in the early history of the islands, a Maori name originally referring only to North Island, Aotearoa, is now widely used for the whole country - and seen in the names of many national organizations.
Takatāpui (intimate partner of the same sex) relationships between men had been a familiar part of life before the arrival of the Europeans. In 1840, when New Zealand became a colony, British law made sex between men illegal. In 1986 gay sex was decriminalised. Same-sex civil union laws came into effect in 2005, and in 2013 this became the fifteenth country to allow same-sex couples to marry. Members of parliament are now openly gay.
Out in the Park opens two weeks of Wellington Pride in March, with a day of onstage entertainment of talented local singers, drag queens and kings, comedians, and circus performers, plus food vendors and community organizations.
The Out Takes Reel Queer Film Festival has been inactive since their screenings in Auckland and Wellington in 2014, but the July-August New Zealand International Film Festival includes some films of LGBTQ interest each year in Auckland.
The compact Wellington International Airport is about 5 miles from the city. A taxi will take you to your hotel in no time flat.
The Airport Flyer express bus service operates between the southern end of the airport Level 0, to Wellington Railway station, every 10 minutes at prime times daily, otherwise every 20 minutes.
This is an incredibly walkable city, with pedestrian-only streets everywhere. Rent a car only if you are exploring the countryside or headed to the beach -- this is a left-side of the road driving country. Wellington public transportation includes buses, trains and ferries - for information see the Metlink website.
What to do
One of the must-see sights is Te Papa Tongarewa, known in English as the Museum of New Zealand. It tells the history of the island, its diverse peoples, and the historic connections to other Pacific islands, all the way to Hawaii.
Currency and Money
The local currency is the New Zealand dollar, known colloquially as the kiwi because there’s an image of the bird on the coins. ATMs are easy to find in the downtown area.
Media & Resources
The gay magazine Express has a news and cultural coverage. Gay NZ closed in, 2017 but many of their 18,000 news stories and features have been captured by LAGANZ, the Lesbian And Gay Archives of New Zealand. Rainbow Wellington has information about local events.
Te Ara is building a comprehensive guide to the peoples, natural environment, history, culture economy and society of these islands.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Wellington listings pages.
Most of the gay-popular clubs and restaurants are in the central Te Aro district by the harbor.
Fringe Bar (26 Allen St), mixed crowd karaoke and stand up comedy club, open mic, theater, poetry, film screenings, Fringe Festival theatre events. Recently moved from Cuba St.
Hawthorn Lounge (82 Tory St), mixed gay-friendly upscale bar, open until 3am Friday/Saturday.
Ivy Bar & Cabaret (49 Lower Cuba St), mixed/gay lounge, cabaret shows, quiz games, karaoke, drag shows; theme nights include Queertastic Quiz Thurdays, Best Bum, and Wild Jungle, "the biggest queer party of the year!"
S&M's (176 Cuba St), popular mixed cocktail and lounge bar, plush cedar walls/ Egyptian chandeliers, pool games, DJs; Queers Gone Kiwi social group, comedy nights, karaoke, burlesque, weekend dancing, Fringe Festival theatre events.
CLOSED: Mighty Mighty (104 Cuba St), alternative bar, live music, plays, dance/performances; Motel Bar (4 Forresters Lane), upscale cocktail bar, meals/snacks - became Forresters Lane; Rush Bar/ Steamworx (5 Wigan St), bar and sauna events moved to Ivy and Fringe.
Checkmate (15 Tory St), open every day at city center, sauna, Jacuzzi, dark room cruising, glory holes, men of all ages and size.
CLOSED: Steamworx Sauna.
Hotels and Guesthouses
Abel Tasman Hotel (169 Willis St, Te Aro; 64-4-385-1304), 73 rooms, Corner Bistro 169 restaurant/bar, SKY TV, laundry, WiFi
Bay Plaza Hotel (40 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay; 64-4-385-7799), city center rooms, brasserie-style restaurant breakkfast and dinner.
Comfort & Quality Hotels (223 Cuba St, Te Aro; 64-4-385-2156), 3 & 4-star rooms, fitness, pool & spa, CQ Restaurant and bar.
Copthorne Hotel Oriental Bay (100 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay; 64-4-385-0279), harbour-view rooms and suites, concierge, Sky TV, WiFi, One80 restaurant.
Distinction Wellington (70 Tory St, Te Aro; 64-4-801-0780), 89 rooms, studios, suites; kitchens, laundry, gym, pool.
Koromiko Homestay (11 Koromiko Rd, Highbury; 64-4-938 6539), two double guest room B&B for gay men and their friends; harbor views, all day sun, hot garden baths, decks and lawn.
Richmond Guest House (116 Brougham St, Mount Victoria; 64-4-939-4567), clean, comfortable, affordable singles/dbls/triples, a five minute walk to the city, kitchen.
The Cambridge Hotel | Backpacker Hostel (28 Cambridge Ter, Te Aro; 64-4-385-8829), inexpensive single, double and private rooms, dorm beds; WiFi, laundry.
Victoria Court Motor Lodge (201 Victoria St, Te Aro; 64-4-385-7102), kitchenette, restaurant, laundry services, spa/Jacuzzi, WiFi.
Wellington City Accommodation B&B (11 Lawson Pl, Mount Victoria; 64-210-739-232), private queen bedroom, shared kitchen, lounge, self-contained cottages in Cuba Quarter, WiFi.